It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for Viruses

I know that this time of the year, the average home users computer is pretty vulnerable to virus, spyware and malware attacks.  The reason I think this is, is because with most newer computers you get a year of Anti Virus protection, and well that year is coming to an end.  Most people in this tight economy (or even in general) don’t want to pay for continued protection, and this leads to all sorts of problems.  As the software stops updating, your computer starts to become more susceptible to viruses.  There is also the other end of the spectrum, where during the Christmas season people are given new computers for the holidays, and because people are so excited to use these computers they forget (or don’t want to) activate the anti virus protection…and then some of them even forget after the excitement of the year is over.
One of these two scenarios is generally the cause for most of the calls I get this time of the year.  Virus programmers also are aware that online shopping is at it’s highest point this time of the year, and they will take advantage of that, trying to get your information.  It isn’t hard to hear a story about this time of the year, where someone went shopping on a major company’s website to only have their information stolen.  There is also a lot of websites that just pop up for the holiday shopping season, with the intent on stealing the information.
I wanted to share some tips on how to stay safe this season, and by no means is this a complete list.  I generally only use one credit card when I shop online.  I also make sure that every other day I check that cards balance, to make sure nothing I didn’t order shows up there.  It now takes an average of 3 days from when the time your card information was stolen until it is used, so make sure you check constantly.  Another is try to limit your shopping online to stores that you know and trust.  When you get to entering in your information, make sure the site is secure, you’ll see a https:// rather than a http:// at the front of an address.  This doesn’t guarantee that your information is safe, just means your information is encoded.  One of the top ones, make sure that you have a current up to date virus definitions (see your manufactures website to check).  If you have or receive a wireless router this season, make sure that you require a password to join the wireless network.  Having your network open to the world only make sure that inexperienced people have access to your information.
Though this isn’t an extensive list, it is a basic list.  I am sure there are some techs out there whose computer is more like Fort Knox, but the average person isn’t going to have that kind of time or patience, so simple is better in this case.  I just want to make sure that everyone has a happy holiday season, and that your credit and identity stay yours.

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